Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Getting through the tough stuff so we can have a happy ending.

Today I've been writing one of the hardest chapters of my book, Between Two Poles. It's been challenging to say the least and I've been struggling to stay with it for about a week, at least. You know how you have an idea of what you want to say, but can't quite put words to the emotions? Well, that's been my experience and I've really had to dive in, swim around in the deepest parts of my angst and try to come up with the best way to write this chapter. I've cleared everything off my calendar to focus all my energies onto this project and wouldn't you know it, my words dried up. Or at least I thought they did until this morning when it clicked.

I was out for a walk with the dog, listening to my new Kris Allen download from American Idol and just asking God to be with me as I swam around in my deep ocean of angst. I was walking along singing along to the song, and all of a sudden it came to me. It was one of those moments where I knew it was God speaking to me. Immediately a started to cry and realized why I was having such a hard time with this section.

See, during this particular time of my journey with Grant through his bi-polar it felt like we were fighting an invisible enemy, all the time. And I was so tired, exhausted really and had no idea how we were going to climb this particular mountain. He was not getting better, we were struggling to figure out why and it felt like nothing was working at all. So, when I sat down to try and put words to this chapter it felt so hard like I was fighting the invisible enemy all over again. I kept asking God to give me the words, to show me what was important and how to write it the way he wanted it to read. All I was getting was a whole lot of tears, sadness and probably not very good writing. I was frustrated, which is why I went out for the walk this morning.

One of my biggest challenges is to let God help me. I am stubborn, unwilling to ask for help, and perfectionistic to a fault. It takes a lot for me to recognize that I've got to lay down my will and allow God to carry the burden, and that's what he showed me today. He reminded me that in our scariest times, in our biggest challenges and during our darkest hour, He will be there and all we have to do is ask. He was there for us when we were trying to get the medication for Grant figured out and he is with me now as I try and put words to what happened.

The words he whispered to me this morning were, "I carried you Allison..." That's how we got through it all, He carried us. He carried us through the tough stuff so that we could get to the happy ending. Now I've got a better direction of where I'm headed, he's carrying me through writing about this tough stuff so that I can finally get to the part where I get to tell about the happy ending. That's sort of how life is sometimes, we've got to go through some tough stuff sometimes so that when we get to the happy ending we will appreciate it, enjoy it and celebrate it. Stay tuned...the happy ending is coming. :)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Making our Hearts Whole

I've been thinking a little bit about destiny and how as a general rule most people don't think about destiny or where they are headed. We think about our immediate need and we want that immediate need satisfied. Maybe it's a survival mechanism or maybe it's just human nature. Anyway, I was thinking about how when we don't pay attention to where God is leading us it's so easy to get off track. And, how quickly we assume that when something bad happens that we must be off track. What if that's actually part of the road to our destiny? What if the bad choices we make or the mistakes we wish we hadn't made are actually part of what God intended to help us get to where He wants us to be. I'm not suggesting that absolves us from taking responsibility for our actions but what I am saying is that even though things happen that we wouldn't necessarily choose, they are part of us, part of our story and part of how God will move in our hearts.

Jesus states in Isaiah 61, "He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners." He binds us up, releases us from captivity and shines His light on those things we keep hidden. It takes an act of our will to choose to allow Him to keep us on track, and to allow Him to touch those parts in us we wish we could ignore.

George MacDonald prayed, “Gather my broken fragments to a whole . . . Let mine be a merry, all-receiving heart, but make it a whole, with light in every part.” But you can’t do this at a distance; you can’t ask Christ to come into your wound while you remain far from it. You have to go there with him. (Wild at Heart , 128–29)

Sure our immediate needs will be satisfied because we are good at figuring out how to do that in our own strength, but if we really want our hearts to be whole, we have to allow Jesus to bind up our broken hearts, we have to be willing to let him in to our darkness and we have to go there with Him. His light shines into the weeds that have grown up around the tombstones in my heart that I gingerly navigate around. His pure light helps me see the weeds, gives me the ability to cut them down and beckons me to open the lid on each tomb so that His light can fill up the darkness that has been hidden there. Once the tomb is filled with light, it disappears taking away the burden and replaces it with a permanent imprint on my heart; a sign that says "Jesus Was Here".

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I'm so Thankful!

This is a photo of me and my family taken this past Mother's Day. Kayla is my daughter she is almost 11, Grant is my husband and Zach is my son and he is almost 12.
Kayla is the silly one, she makes me laugh with her goofiness and slapstick sense of humor. She also possesses an innate sense of discernment that I've never seen in a child her age. From the time she was a small child her instincts about other people were usually right on. Somehow God enlightened me to this and I have always tried to encourage her to trust her gut. She's a smart girl and I'm thankful that while young she already understands her instincts, and most of the time sticks by them.
Zach is much more cerebral and enjoys the process of how everything in this world fits together, for him life is a giant puzzle and he loves trying to figure out how the pieces fit. He has a dry wit and already recites lines from Monty Python with a deadpan that would give the "Knights that Say Nee" a run for their money. Zach feels emotion so deeply and has a tremendous degree of empathy. His heart hurts when he sees people do wrong and desires to set things right. His greatest strength is that he already knows how to be a good friend.
And then Grant...he is the love of my life, my soulmate and my best friend. I have loved him for as long as I can remember and every day I'm reminded by the gift our life is. He is quick witted, silly, intensely passionate about certain things and loves to have a good conversation. He also has an empathetic heart and enjoys relating to people, in fact that is probably one of my favorite qualities. He desires to have relationships with others, and will open his heart. I love that!
As we celebrated Mother's day this year I couldn't help but feel reflective about where we have been as a family and how far we have come these last four years. We have climbed mountains called: mental illness, financial crisis, sickness, separation among others and every time we thought we couldn't make it another step God stepped in and carried us. On Mother's Day two years ago I sat in the Larry's Market in Seattle with my two children, wondering where the future would lead, hoping my family would survive our latest challenge, never dreaming that God would not only help us climb the final mountain, he would carry us into an entirely different realm.
And so I look at this photo and I see a family that has beat seemingly impossible odds with God's help. I see a family that has been on the receiving end of God's grace and mercy. I see two parents who love each other and have fought the enemy head on to keep their family intact. I see two kids who are kind and loving, I see happiness on our faces and I feel relief.
Thank you God for restoring and renewing us, each and every day. Thank you for helping us as individuals to grow, change and trust in you.
Thank you God for making me a Mom and thank you for this family that means so much to me.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Are you a nag?

I'm a nag. It's not debateable, it's truth and I'm willing to admit it. Now before you who know me best try to run quickly to my defense, there can be no, "Oh Allison, you're not a nag," or "Oh, don't be so hard on yourself," kind of talk allowed here. If those things are going through your head right now, you are going to miss my point. So...stop thinking that and take a breath. Now, keep reading.

I know many of us believe that if we didn't make requests or direct every single detail during the daily lives of our families and friends, nothing would ever get done. I find myself, like a lot of other mom's I know requesting, requesting, requesting, thinking that I'm just making a simple request, is that too much to ask? But when does a request turn into a nag? Probably when your son looks you in the face and says, "Mom, I get it now stop nagging me." Does that sound familiar to anyone? Hmm, well maybe or maybe it sounds like this from your husband, "Don't I always get it done on time?" Well, yes...but what do I do now?

I mean, if I stop making my "requests" that are actually making me into a nag, how do I know that what I've requested will actually happen? Worse yet, what if I stop nagging and actually have to trust that my request has been heard? Why is that so hard for us? Why do some of you right now, actually have anxiety pulsating through the blood in your veins? Because, we want what we want when we want it...we are nags.

Here's the thing...I don't think any of us want to believe that we are nags or what we are doing when we repeat our requests over and over again, is actually "nagging". And I know saying to yourself, "I'm a nag," doesn't sound great. But if you think about it and find yourself constantly requesting, requesting, requesting, it could be that what you are really doing is nagging. And no one likes a nag. So, what are you going to do about it?

Here is my "How Not to be a Nag" list...

12. Know that if you want something done and need help, it's okay to ask.
11. Know that your needs are important, sometimes we just have to communicate them.
10. Know that some things are outside your realm of control, some are within...figure out which realm your request is in and then proceed.
9. Be open and direct in making your request.
8. Don't have expectations that go unmentioned, that's not fair.
7. Make your request reasonable, and then trust the requestee to follow through.
6. If there is no follow through, check number 8 again, then communicate your feelings appropriately.
5. Know what triggers your shift from making requests to being a nag...resist them.
4. When you don't know what to say, don't say anything...wait.
3. When you do know what to say, then say it--and then let it go.
2. Believe the best about those people who love you, know they want what's best for you too.
1. Believe the best about yourself

Being a nag really boils down to our need for control. Once we know what our triggers are, we are on the road to recovery. So, I'm asking, Are you a nag?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Trusting God

Sometimes when I'm alone and being very still I hear God speak. His words are so different from mine and I love the way they flow through me and around me, making themselves at home. A few years ago I was feeling very alone and fearful. Trust has always been challenging for me and it was during this season the Lord spoke to me. The book of Isaiah is one of my favorites and I had been studying Isaiah 26 quite a bit. I asked God all the time to make himself known to me in a way that I had never experienced before and to help me make this scripture passage a part of me.
Eventually, I heard him talk to me like he loved me, like I was important to him and that before I could ever really trust anyone starting with him would be a good idea. I hope as you read this, you will hear God speaking to you and these words will encourage you to put your faith and trust in him.

Isaiah 26:3 “You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you.”

Beloved, you are my child and I love you. You are a blooming flower and I will care for you. I will be your nourishment and give you rest. I will provide for all of your needs and never will I leave your side. I have always been here, watching over you. Never have you been alone. When your heart was heavy I carried you. When you were frightened I comforted you. When you were hurt I hurt with you. When you cried I cried too. When you were joyful my heart was filled. When you had victory I had victory too.

Beloved, let my heart be your heart. Be one with me and know that I will always be here. Do not be distracted by the things of this world, but lean on me. Follow me and I will fill you up. My heart has always been filled with love for you, do not ever doubt. I am all around you, you are never really alone. When you confess that I am your King my heart rejoices, all I really want is to be one with you.

Oh my child, so long I have waited for you. It is I who makes your path straight. It is I who goes before you and comes behind you, hemming you in. It is I who stand against the evil forces that come against you. It is I who protect you and promise to never leave you or forsake you.

You are blinded by the things of this world. Filled with doubt and fear, wondering which way to turn. You are like a leaf blowing in the wind, turning this way and that, you who claim to be my follower, you who call me King. Where is your heart? This road I have laid out for you and this road I will walk with you. When you forget, I will pick up the pieces and put you together again. Do you not see how much I love you and want you for my own? I call you beloved because you are mine. I claimed you even before you were born. It is I who gives you perfect peace, and keeps your purpose firm; you only have to trust in me.

Friday, May 1, 2009

God's Order in Chaos

There are not many things we can control in this life. Sometimes bad things happen that send us freefalling into a dark black hole, making us wonder if we will ever be able to climb out. What you do when the bottom falls out can make all the difference.
The morning of August 16, 2005 I woke up feeling a familiar wave of sadness wash over me. My husband and I had been fighting, a lot. Just that morning he had gone on a business trip and I couldn’t help but feel relieved for the respite I would receive. We both had fresh wounds from the words we exchanged the night before and I felt exhausted by another sleepless night.
I was determined to make the best of the day and managed to check my email before my two 2nd graders bounded into the game room. Nothing could have prepared me for what I found when I clicked the minimized icons on the bottom of my screen. Pictures of coffins, tombstones and directions for burial covered my computer screen. Were these suicide clues? I couldn’t fathom what I was seeing and wanted to believe it was a joke. Fear wrapped its ugly tentacles around my heart as I plummeted into a cave of darkness. The bottom of my world had fallen out and I was falling fast into a realm that I only imagined in my nightmares. I had no idea what was happening but I knew that something terrible had begun.

Look Up
Jesus said, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…”
When bad things happen we are assured of the promise from God himself, the fire will not burn us, the torrents of water will not sweep over us and the flames will not set us ablaze. No matter how frightening our situations seem we can take heart that God has us covered. When the bottom falls out of your world instead of looking down trying to figure out where you’re going to land, look up. Look up into the face of Jesus, cling to His truth. As you feel the cold hard walls close in on you, keep your eyes on the light at the top of the cave and wait. Watch for the mighty hand of the Lord who loves you and when He reaches out to you, grab hold and don’t let go.

Feel the Breeze
For an experienced skydiver freefalling is measured and calculated to the exact altitude. He jumps on purpose into the atmosphere, controlling his fall and lands without a scratch. He feels the breeze, knowing instinctively how far to fall. When we are in the midst of crisis it’s hard to imagine doing anything that makes sense. Even the most faithful give in to panic and desperation. Let’s face it, freefalling through crisis or tragedy is ugly and very painful. Our lives are in peril and we have no idea where we are going to land.
We might not have the luxury of controlling our fall when crisis comes but we do have the ability to reach out and place our trust in Jesus. He knows exactly how far our descent will be. He knows what we need to get us where He wants us to land. Sometimes feeling the breeze means we have to accept our situation. Sometimes we have to be in that moment in order to see what God intends, no matter how scary that might be.
We might not understand and maybe we never will. That’s okay. It’s for these challenges that God equips us. He has a plan and purpose and says clearly in Jeremiah 29:11 “I have plans to prosper you not to harm you.” Let the breeze blow over you and look up, trusting God to land you safely.

Expect the Chute
When a skydiver yanks the cord to open his chute a powerful force pulls the skydiver upward. His freefall has suddenly stopped. In that moment he is confident that the rest of his descent will be smooth and he operates the cords deftly as he floats to the ground. Freefalling for a sky diver is graceful, measured and calculated to the exact altitude. He has the luxury of controlling his descent.
When tragedy strikes there is nothing graceful about the fall we take. We desperately try to grab onto anything that will slow our drop, only making our situation worse.
God’s deliverance doesn’t always look like we think it should. But when we trust in God, and rely on him to navigate us through uncertain times we are sure to land gracefully, safely and with confidence. The skydiver places his trust in a man made parachute, but we as God’s children can trust in Him to be our chute. When times get tough we can believe with assurance that our chute will open. We can expect it.